Goodman, et al. Chapter 3 Histories of Race, Difference and Racism

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Goodman, et al. Chapter 3

Histories of Race, Difference and Racism

Creating Race 1

  • First, be sure to review the Timeline posted on pages 17-20. These materials are testable.

  • Most scholars recognize race as an idea or set of ideas about human differences.

  • Many of these are either inaccurate or inadequate.

  • Even so, these ideas carry influence in that we create race.

  • Back to the Age of Discovery to remind us that during this time there were clashes between the European colonists and the indigenous peoples of the New World.

  • The early Europeans saw the indigenes as members of ‘nations’ and not races.

  • Also the earliest American colonists did not describe Africans as black in terms of race, but they (along with many Europeans) were part of an indentured servant system.

  • Watch: Wanda Sykes’s Free Ancestors in the 1600s and 1700s

  • It is of particular note that because her 9th great-grandmother was white, Sykes family had many free African American ancestors. That the status of the child followed “the condition of the mother”.

  • By the mid-1600s the status of Africans began to change.

  • Africans were shifted out of the indentured servant system into one of permanent slavery.

  • It is important to remember that many American Indians were also enslaved at this time and performed the same work as African slaves and European servants.

  • It is important to note that American slavery was NOT the same institution that existed among the Romans or in Africa.

  • Goodman, et al. make a distinction between American “slave societies” and “societies with slaves”.

  • American slavery were placed at the bottom of a biological and fictive kinship system and slavery was inherited across generations.

Creating Race 2

  • The demographic impact of the slave trade on Africa.

  • What is of import is the reduction in African populations as a result of the slave trade.

  • Estimates for the loss of life (1450-1870) range from 11 to 100 million people enslaved.

  • The growth rate of Africa was affected and may mean as many as 19 million persons were not born to Africa as result.

  • The results?

  • In 1600, Africa‘s population was 55 million, Europe’s was 100 million.

  • By 1850, Europe and Asian populations doubled, but Africa only increased by 30%!

  • The effects of enslavement of Africans included:

  • Decreased population numbers (estimate that 99 million less Africans as a result of forced exodus).

  • Stagnated the African economy.

  • Phenotypic traits (appearance) came to signal social status as diverse populations came into contact for first time. Prior to the time of the 15th century, one’s skin tone did not determine your race in Western societies. This use of skin color to label your race is linked to colonial imperialism.

  • Admixture occurred (mixing of populations).

    More on Admixture

  • The social consequences of admixture under South African apartheid

  • When a black South African had a child by a white South African this was illegal. Under apartheid, this broke the Immorality Act and the mother could have been jailed according to this law

  • The children were often considered to be ‘black’ by the whites and ‘colored’ by the blacks. Thus they were caught between two worlds

  • These children are among the many people treated according to culturally defined categories of race.

  • The need to stigmatize these relationships resulted in the use of a set of terms to further push them out of the mainstream

  • A partial list is located here. [Most are quite offensive, so be aware.]

  • The diversity we see in humans could not always have existed as there were so few of our ancestors in the past.

  • Given these small numbers, panmixia had to have been the norm.

  • Panmixia means that people choose their mates across the population, rather than from sub-groups.

  • At that time, mating (at least for physical traits) was likely to have been random.

  • Even so, populations merge repeatedly and today people usually choose their mates based on physical and cultural differences.

  • Positive assortative mating (meaning it is the factors you like that cause you to choose a person).

  • This compares with negative assortative mating (where you refuse someone because of physical or cultural characteristics). All human populations are a mixing of peoples who have come into contact.

  • No population of humans has been reproductively isolated for any amount of time that is biologically significant. Noel Coward called it the ‘urge to merge’.

  • When a person marries into a family s/he marries the whole family.

  • This means we ‘pick up’ all the ancestors of our mates in our children.

  • This means that the habit of tracing oneself back to famous persons is true (but genetically insignificant).

Creating Race 3

  • Slavery provides new labor for the Americas.

  • American Indian resistance to enslavement and the huge losses of Indian populations (maybe as much as 90% died) meant an alternative population was needed for slavery.

  • The result was the abovementioned effects on Africa, but also the underdevelopment of those who were enslaved.

  • These geographic disparate populations were brought together for the first time and resulted in conditions of social inequality.

  • The Middle Passage

  • This term refers to the route between Africa and the New World; it is one leg of what is called the triangle of trade (slaves to the New World, sugar to the United States, then rum to Africa to purchase slaves).

  • The Portuguese, the Spanish, and then the English were deeply involved with the trade.

  • Who was most likely to die during the trip?

  • On one boat taking the Middle Passage (the Coningin Hester), more young adults died than the old and youngest.

The Middle Passage

  • As young men and women were the physiologically most fit, some researchers suggest there was differential punishment in these ‘high risk groups”.

Creating Race 4

  • The Middle Passage (continued)

  • In addition to loss of life, many argue there were natural selection effects of the Middle Passage.

  • One of the most often cited is the salt sensitivity argument

    • Salt sensitivity argument is that Black Americans are more salt sensitive due to the effects of the Middle Passage. There are problems with this idea:

      • We know little about salt sensitivity in African populations

      • This explanation is not supported by data nor is it testable.

      • But there is a link between hypertension and salt intake.

      • The fits the American diet, not just the Black American diet.

      • Blacks do exhibit higher rates of hypertension, so salty diets may be more stressful

    • Also a part of the issue is what are called food deserts.

    • The stresses of racism may also play a part in hypertension

  • Racial admixture due to slavery

  • Admixture is the term used to refer to the mating of different populations of humans.

  • In the United States, the contact between populations started to erode as individuals produced offspring that were the result of these contacts.

  • In some cases these were voluntary; but for the enslaved peoples this was never truly voluntary.

  • The concept that the American population can be separated into black and white (biologically) ignores the genetic admixture of populations and how significant this has been historically.

Creating Race 5

  • Racial admixture due to slavery (continued)

  • The social consequences were clearer:

  • The construct called ‘the rule of “hypodescent” or the “one drop rule” was dominant

  • That if one had a single ancestor who was ‘black’ one is black.

  • Of course, this makes no biological sense, but it was a social mechanism for maintaining power.

  • Many Africans and American Indians mingled as they also did with many Europeans.

  • Indians gained a different status than Africans did though.

  • Eventually Indians were recognized as being human by the Catholic church, while Africans remained sub-human be definition.

  • This mean Indians could be exterminated but not enslaved.

  • American Indians became labeled as “noble savages”.

  • By the late 1600s this concept began to appear in European discourse.

  • It is a complex idea but is grounded in racial hierarchies and admiration of connection to the natural world (envy of the ‘simple people’s).

  • The noble savage concept could be said to be a positive stereotype.

  • Two classic examples of the noble savage are the “Indian princess” stereotype and the “Indian brave” stereotype.

  • Of course there are also negative stereotypes, but we talk about the positive ones as they would seem to be just that, positive. They are not, they are still stereotypes.

  • You might be interested to watch Reel Injun clips.

  • You can add this one on how to look “Pocahontas-y”

Creating Race 6

  • Thomas Jefferson represents the political/personal contradictions or race and racism at this time.

  • As a creationist, he believed all living organisms had been created by God. He also felt all humans had been created equal.

  • He explained the differences between his race and others as an intervening event (something had happened between the original creation and his contemporary peoples).

  • He saw Greek slavery as creating greater Greeks.

  • He saw blacks as intellectually inferior. Even as he attributed some positive traits to blacks and Indians, he felt they could not co-exist as equals.

  • His disagreement with slavery was not a concern for the slaves, but for the slave owners. He felt the institution would cause their overthrow of the whites by their inferiors due to the erosion of the Southern elite.

  • The story of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.

  • In 1998, a scientific paper was published that suggested that the “Father of American Democracy” had fathered several children with a woman he had owned as a slave.

  • Thomas Jefferson had no legitimate male heirs so they used the descendants of his paternal uncle to test the claim. Go to this link to see a great diagram:

  • Read: [This information will be on the test.]

  • He introduces the concept of the Y-chromosome as a tracer of male heritage but does not label it as such in this introduction.

  • In fact, it is not clear if Jefferson or his brother was the father and the DNA cannot distinguish between them.

Creating Race 7

  • The origin of the ideology of race

  • Reminds us that race as we think of it is a recent invention, with origins in the late-17th century.

  • Today, most Americans still think that skin color is a valid distinction between races.

  • Race originated as a “folk ideology” about human differences.

  • These ideas originate at the same time that laws were being established to legitimize slavery and this is no coincidence.

  • From the 18th century on these views were backed with “scientific evidence” (today we call this pseudoscience).

  • The significance of history

  • Reminds us that the early European colonists were unsuccessful in enslaving the indigenous peoples in great part because of the effects of infectious diseases and hard labor.

  • In North America (even with greatly varying population estimates) the death toll was immense.

  • Estimates range from 80-90% died by the end of the 1600s; whatever the original populations, the death toll is in the millions.

  • Some researchers have labeled this as the “American Indian holocaust”.

Creating Race 8

  • The significance of history (continued)

  • Africans immigrants, initially, spoke Portuguese or Spanish and had ties to the Europeans.

  • As indentured servants they are impoverished, but had the opportunity for freedom.

  • “Interracial marriages” were not stigmatized in the early days.

  • From servant to slave

  • Until the 18th the Africans had a positive image among the Europeans as farmers, cattle ranchers and skilled laborers.

  • Because of their origins in the Old World, they had immunities to the infectious diseases, had experience working on farms in tropical regions, and they had no place to run.

  • By the mid-1600s the colonies were in a crisis: class differences were established as a few Europeans began to monopolize the farms and grow tobacco.

  • The freed poor had less access to land resources.

  • Unrest increased and in 1676 a rebellion in Virginia was led by Nathaniel Bacon.

  • About 400 Africans and 6-700 Europeans were among the rebels and represented a threat to social stability.

  • The rebellion died when Bacon died, but spurred fear in the landowners.

Creating Race 9

  • Establishing slavery

  • The rich landowners responded to the threat of rebellion by establishing racial slavery.

  • A series of new laws were enacted that restricted Africans.

  • New slaves were brought directly from Africa, rather than servants from other European colonies. They differed from the African servants in significant ways:

  • The Africans were “heathens” rather than Christians.

  • They did not know the European languages or cultures, either.

  • These new immigrants were more vulnerable and the British began to argue that they were not eligible to the protections of the law; that they could be forced into permanent labor (slavery).

  • In the latter half of the 17th century, indentured servants were staying home as the local economies grew.

  • The African slave trade increased in response to these needs and in response to internal conflicts in Africa.

  • The landowners came to see two needs:

  • There needed to be social controls over the population.

  • There needed to be the prevention of rebellions.

Creating Race 10

  • Establishing slavery (continued)

  • The physical differences between African and European workers made it easier to create a demarcation between the groups that began to be treated as real.

  • In the period between 1690-1725 Virginia saw the creation of racial slavery.

  • Dozens of laws were passed that restricted the rights of African groups and the rights of their children to come.

  • By 1725, Africans were prohibited from voting.

  • At the same time, the colonial leaders were homogenizing the Europeans into a category called “white”, ignoring class, ethnicity and so forth.

  • By 1691 this term first appeared in a public record.

  • By doing so, the leaders separated the indentured not by social class, but by this new set of criteria, effectively a ‘divide and conquer’ social control mechanism.

  • Rationalizing slavery

  • The earliest attempts at racial slavery were NOT based on physicality, but rather on the construct that Africans were “uncivilized heathens” and “savages”.

  • There was precedence for this; the British had already constructed the idea of the “wild Irish”.

  • There are many examples of the British trying to create the concept of the “Irish race”.

  • Another group came to labeled as savages: American Indians (First Peoples).

  • But by the late 18th century this had been revised to the “noble savage” label (see earlier slide for more details).

  • It is important to remember that many First Peoples had been the victims of genocide and forced onto reservations during the previous century and so were not seen as a strong threat.

Creating Race 11

  • Rationalizing slavery (continued)

  • The process of racial slavery was seen as preventing the creation of new savages (Negros) and negative labels aimed at Africans helped to rationalize their subjugation.

  • These became the basis of the stereotypes seen in the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • This all created unequal groups, imposed different meanings on these groups and dehumanized Africans (othering: The process by which the basic principles of another culture (sub-culture or group) are demonized).

  • Even though the Civil War officially ended slavery, in the South race remained a marker of social status and identity.

  • The modern stereotypes of African Americans today are solidified during this time.

  • This concept included that of hierarchy, real and measureable physical differences, and natural (based on God’s creations).

  • The concept of a biological basis of these differences became accepted

  • If these differences were biological they were unchangeable (transmutable) and were not capable of being transcended.

  • After the Civil War, both African Americans and American Indians were seen as of such low status that they should not be considered as equal citizens.

  • Officially, though black Americans were legal citizens after the Civil War.

  • This was not true for all American Indians. It was only in 1924 that American Indians were granted this right (Snyder Act, also called Indian Citizenship Act of 1924).

  • Some had been granted citizenship previously but had been required to enter the military or renounced their heritage).

  • There remained some who were not included until the Nationality Act of 1940.

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